indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
The University of Tulsa College of Law - Master's in Indian Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Judge to issue final ruling in Cobell case in August
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Filed Under: Cobell

The federal judge handling the landmark Indian trust fund lawsuit said on Wednesday he will issue a final ruling in August.

After 10 days of trial, Judge James Robertson heard closing arguments in the 12-year-old case. Though he has ruled that the federal government cannot account for billions of dollars in Indian trust funds, he cautioned against an equally large final judgment.

"From where I sit today, the dispute in the case is between 10 digits and 9 digits," Robertson said, referring to the dollar figures at issue.

Robertson's commentary indicates that he is considering an award of no more than $10 billion. That's in the range suggested by several independent experts who have told Congress that the case is worth anywhere from $6 billion to $10 billion.

But it's far less than the $58 billion in restitution the Cobell plaintiffs sought in their initial filings. Based on new data produced during the trial, the request was lowered to $46 billion.

"A large number should not turn this court away from justice," said plaintiffs' attorney Bill Dorris during closing arguments. "The amount is high but the years have been many."

On the other hand, a 9- to 10-digit dollar award would be much higher than the amount suggested by the Bush administration. According to the federal government, the overwhelming majority of funds in the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust have been distributed.

"At worse, no more than $409.8 million cannot be explained in the IIM system," said Department of Justice attorney Robert Kirschman. To the extend that any award is being considered, "it should be a low amount indeed," he said.

Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, and four other Indian leaders filed the case on June 10, 1996, during the Clinton administration. The lawsuit was certified as a class action to represent hundreds of thousands of current and former trust beneficiaries who never received an accounting of their funds.

The first major victory came in December 1999, when Judge Royce Lamberth held that the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994 required the Interior Department to account for "all funds" in the IIM trust. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2001 upheld the decision, noting that the law did not create the duty to account but merely affirmed it.

Once the Bush administration came on board, the case took on a particularly acrimonious tone. After a slew of trials, contempt charges and appeals, Lamberth was removed from the case in July 2006 amid complaints about his impartiality.

Robertson was assigned to the case in December 2006 and pledged to resolve it as quickly as possible. He convened a trial in October 2007 to examine all of the issues surrounding the historical accounting.

In January 2008, Robertson ruled that the accounting was "impossible" due to funding restraints and limitations placed on the effort by the Bush administration. He started a trial on June 9 to finally put an end to the long-running case.

The trial focused on the plaintiffs' claim that they are entitled to restitution for the failure to account and for the benefits allegedly obtained by the government for failing to distribute all of the trust funds to beneficiaries. By adding up the data from 1887, the inception of the IIM trust, to 2007, the plaintiffs arrived at $46 billion.

The government responded during trial that the overwhelming majority of trust funds were distributed. Witnesses testified that the government did not benefit from the trust, which they said represents only a small portion of the trillion-dollar U.S. economy.

A separate issue in the case -- that of trust reform -- has not been on the radar since the appeals court struck down one of Lamberth's rulings. Yesterday, Dorris said the plaintiffs will ask Robertson to drop those claims without prejudice.

Trial Transcripts:
June 9 AM | June 9 PM | June 10 AM | June 10 PM | June 11 | June 12 AM | June 12 PM | June 16 AM | June 16 PM | June 17 AM | June 17 PM | June 18 AM | June 18 PM | June 19 AM

Related Stories:
Washington law firm invests millions in Cobell case (6/23)
Final ruling in Cobell case expected by mid-July (6/20)
En Francais: Elouise Cobell ready for battle (6/19)
Osage Nation seeks to intervene in Cobell case (6/19)
Cobell judge won't rule early on final trial (6/18)
Cobell to appear on NPR program 'Tell Me More' (6/16)
Jodi Rave: Testimony continues in historic Cobell trial (6/16)
Letter: Indians kept poor by federal government (6/16)
Osage trust funds at issue in Cobell lawsuit (6/13)
Editorial: $58B trust payout more than fair (6/13)
Editorial: Indians short-changed by trustee (6/13)
Cobell plaintiffs rest case in trust fund trial (6/12)
Cobell plaintiffs focus on $58B claim at trial (6/11)
Trial seeks to resolve Indian trust fund lawsuit (6/11)
Judge opens landmark trial in Cobell trust fund case (6/10)
Jodi Rave: Cobell happy with opening day of trial (6/10)
Jodi Rave: Cobell trial begins in Washington DC (6/9)
Cobell trust fund case set for final trial (6/3)
After six-plus years, BIA website finally online (05/27)
BIA to be fully online in a couple of months (5/21)
Interior heads back online after disconnect (5/15)
Judge issues pre-trial order in Cobell trust case (5/13)
Bush administration responds to Cobell $58B claim (04/11)
'Rough justice' seen in resolving Cobell case (4/7)
House panel threatens Cobell accounting cut (4/4)
Letter: A small spark of justice in Cobell case (3/31)
Cobell plaintiffs say $58B owed for Indian trust (3/21)
Cobell case set for resolution in court (3/6)
Judge sets June 9 trial to resolve Cobell case (3/5)
Judge to hold Cobell hearing this Wednesday (3/3)
Next hearing in Cobell case set for March 5 (02/21)
Resolution appears near in Cobell trust case (2/19)
Editorial: Settle 'botched' Indian trust fund (02/06)
Editorial: Settle the Indian trust fund lawsuit (2/4)
Kempthorne reiterates $7B Indian trust offer (2/1)
Editorial: A remedy for 'neglect' of Indian trust (2/1)
Cobell: 'Great day in Indian Country' (1/31)
Judge: Cobell historical accounting 'impossible' (1/30)
Cobell statement on historical accounting decision (1/30)
Jim Cason: Historical accounting facts (01/18)



Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Judge won't rush ruling on Dakota Access easement amid change (12/9)
Mark Trahant: Trump's pick for Interior poses problems for tribes (12/9)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud housing program wins top award (12/9)
Native Sun News Today: More tribal citizens sign up for Medicaid (12/9)
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Maybe we can learn from our tragic history (12/9)
Brandon Ecoffey: Reservation basketball coaches deserve better (12/9)
Mike Myers: What Trump's election means for indigenous nations (12/9)
Caleb Trotter: New law in Oklahoma hurts legitimate Indian artists (12/9)
Gun Lake Tribe shares nearly $5.8M in gaming revenue in Michigan (12/9)
Little River Band payment puts gaming revenue sharing at $32.1M (12/9)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe files notice of appeal in casino lawsuit (12/9)
Bureau of Indian Affairs opens door to big shift in tribal economies (12/8)
Tribes promise fight against Dakota Access ahead of court hearing (12/8)
Tribes bringing #NoDAPL battle to international human rights forum (12/8)
Dakota Access Pipeline disputes small fine for disturbing tribal site (12/8)
Harold Frazier: 'Wopila tanka' to all the #NoDAPL water protectors (12/8)
Native Sun News Today: Temporary win on Dakota Access Pipeline (12/8)
Lakota Country Times: Arrests made in fatal Pine Ridge shootings (12/8)
Native Sun News Today Editorial: A bumpy ride with Donald Trump (12/8)
Delphine Red Shirt: We must step up and take care of our children (12/8)
James Giago Davies: Obama could have stopped #NoDAPL abuses (12/8)
Steven Newcomb: 'Unjust' war against #NoDAPL water protectors (12/8)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community starts work on casino upgrades (12/8)
Seminole Tribe still shares gaming revenue despite lack of compact (12/8)
Chukchansi Tribe finally distributes $1.4M in overdue gaming funds (12/8)
Tribal sovereignty foe slated to join Donald Trump's administration (12/7)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin denies speculation of 'privatizing' tribal land (12/7)
Sen. Barrasso passing on gavel at Senate Indian Affairs Committee (12/7)
North Dakota county wants 'Sheriff Kirchmeier' account off Twitter (12/7)
Indian Health Service plans to award $1.4M in Native youth grants (12/7)
Rosalyn R. LaPier: How Standing Rock became a site of pilgrimage (12/7)
Lakota Country Times: North Dakota county sheriff hit with lawsuit (12/7)
Vi Waln: The #NoDAPL movement reminds them we are still here (12/7)
Native Sun News Today: Lakota artist designs 'Water is Life' tipi (12/7)
Ivan Star Comes Out: The lust for oil and the #NoDAPL movement (12/7)
Common Dreams: Veterans ask for forgiveness at Standing Rock (12/7)
Tiffany Midge: Don't shame Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for pipeline (12/7)
Editorial: A 'false victory' on the Dakota Access Pipeline easement (12/7)
Nick Zaiac: Let tribes decide what to do with their own homelands (12/7)
Redding Rancheria 'excited' about bid to move casino to new site (12/7)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe defends right to use land for gaming (12/7)
Dakota Access resumes push to complete final portion of pipeline (12/6)
Dave Archambault: It's time for water protectors to return home (12/6)
Kirk Francis: Tribes must remain vigilant despite #NoDAPL victory (12/6)
Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn: Numbers behind Standing Rock's victory (12/6)
Supreme Court schedules oral argument in tribal immunity case (12/6)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.